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Nigeria victory is a stepping stone to World Cup - Jane

Football
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By ESPN Staff

Real see title race moving in their favour

MADRID, April 12 (Reuters) - Real Madrid believe the momentum is swinging their way in the Primera Liga title race after having closed to within two points of leaders Barcelona.

Real ground out a 2-0 win at home to a weakened Osasuna last weekend while Barca went down 1-0 at Real Zaragoza, a scoreline that did little to reflect the degree of the home side's superiority.

As a result, Fabio Capello's side travel to Racing Santander on Saturday with a spring in their step knowing that a win would put them top of the pile and heap the pressure on their title rivals who do not play until the following day.

'If we want to win the title, then we have to win this game,' Real midfielder Guti said this week. 'Four or five weeks ago we had no chance and now we are back in the hunt and we hope this will inspire us to keep on winning.'

Guti believes that Barcelona's mediocre form since the turn of the year is undermining the Catalans' morale.

'They are bound to be getting a bit nervous because of the way they are playing and because of their results...They aren't as solid as before.

'Barcelona are a great team and they are still favourites to win the league, but it will be the most consistent team that takes the title.'

Real are doing little to please the crowd with their style of football, but with the results going their way and the best away record in the league they are beginning to believe that they might just break their four-year trophy drought.

Opponents Racing, however, could prove to be a hard nut to crack. Trained by former Real Madrid reserve team coach Miguel Angel Portugal, they have their tails up after a seven-match unbeaten streak which has put them into the running for a place in Europe.

The club's little-and-large strike partnership of Real old boy Pedro Munitis and giant Serbian Nikola Zigic is one of the most effective in the league and they will have little to lose on Saturday.

Barca, on the other hand, are under heavy pressure to prove they can reverse their downward spiral in form.

The Catalans have won just once in their last nine away games and have 11 points less than at the same stage last season when they went on to win the title.

Their preparations for Sunday's game at home to Real Mallorca have been disrupted by the absence of influential players Deco (personal reasons), Ronaldinho (illness) and Samuel Eto'o (tendinitis) and the local media is accusing the big names of failing to pull their weight.

The most high-powered clash of the weekend will see Valencia try and bounce back from their Champions League defeat at the hands of Chelsea and reignite their campaign to qualify for next season's competition when they host second-place Sevilla.

In another intriguing encounter, new coach Hristo Stoichkov will hope to inspire relegation-threatened Celta Vigo to only their second home win of the season when they entertain Galician rivals Deportivo Coruna on Sunday.